#Recipe #ChocolateChip Day

A food lover’s calendar is choc-full (pardon the pun!) of days on which to celebrate, indulge and extol the virtues of food stuffs galore. In fact I’m pretty certain that if you research hard enough you’ll find that every single day is bequeath to some food or ingredient somewhere in the world. Not that I’m complaining! On that note, May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day here in North American waters. And without further ado I present not one but TWO culinary efforts in homage to that humble morsel of cocoa goodness.

My “Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies” are chocolate, chocolate, chocolate lovers dream! Crumbly mint chocolate cookie studded with chocolate chips, enrobed in a smooth, dark chocolate case. Absolute perfection with a glass of ice-cold milk. Girl scouts eat your hearts out!

The second cookie that we have, “Choc Chip Short Oat Cookies” are a wonderful hybrid between buttery, crumbly shortbread and a classic oatmeal cookie. Easy to bake they’re also a handy one to have ready should you be looking for an afternoon activity with little hands.

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Peppermint Cookies 1

Ingredients (makes apx 50)
Chocolate Cookies:

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet

Chocolate Peppermint Coating:

16oz chocolate, semi-sweet, broken into pieces

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Method:
Making the cookies:
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar until well combined (apx 10 mins) Add the vanilla extract, peppermint extract, salt, and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is well combined and there are no pockets of cocoa dust
  • Add the flour and mix until you have crumbly dough
  • Gather the dough into a ball, and knead it together on a counter for about 3-5 mins It should become somewhat smoother. (Don’t worry if it’s still a little crumbly)
  • Divide the dough in 2, flatten into disks, and wrap in cling wrap. Chill in a refrigerator for 15-20 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment
  • Roll dough out to a thickness of 6mm. I used a rolling-pin with guides to get a consistent thickness. A trick I found that works really well is to roll the dough out between two sheets of baking parchment. Not only are the cookies easier to lift, it also saves on counter top mess and cleaning up!
  • Cut out cookies (I use a 2 “ cutter) and place, spaced apart, on the pre-lined baking sheets
  • Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the trays for 3-5 mins. Then careful remove to wire racks and allow to cool completely
  • When your cookies have cooled completely prepare your chocolate coating

Peppermint Cookies

Making the coating:
  • In a bowl set over hot water in a pan, slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally
  • Add in the peppermint extract and stir to combine. It may look like it’s caused the chocolate to separate and become grainy but fear not! Keep stirring and it’ll come right in the end.
Finishing the cookies:
  • With a fork in each hand, gently drop the cookies one at a time into the chocolate coating
  • Using the forks, flip to coat all sides. Lift the cookie out of the chocolate with one of the forks and allow any excess chocolate to drip off the cookie back into the bowl
  • Place the freshly coated cookie on a parchment lined counter, and repeat
  • Allow the cookies to cool at room temperature until ready. They’ll be ready in a couple of hours but I find it best to leave them overnight. They can be stored in an airtight tin for 3-5 days. (Use baking parchment to separate the layers and prevent sticking)

Peppermint Cookies 3

*When dipping the baked cookies you’ll get to a point where it becomes too awkward to flip and properly coat the cookies in the melted chocolate. I transfer the remaining chocolate to a piping bag and drizzle it over the remaining cookies.

Peppermint Cookies 4

Choc Chip Short Oat Cookies

Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients (makes apx 48)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups cake flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup quick-cooking oats

12oz chocolate chips, semi-sweet

Method
  • Heat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment
  • In large bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and powdered sugar until light, fluffy and well combined
  • Add in the flour, baking soda, vanilla and oats., and mix until well combined
  • Stir in chocolate chips
  • On pre-lined baking sheets, drop dough by teaspoonfuls. Space them apx 2 inches apart
  • Bake in the preheated oven for between 11 to 13 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays for 5 mins
  • After 5 minutes carefully transfer the baked cookies to wire racks and allow to cool completely
  • Enjoy!

#Recipe Sweet ‘n’ Salty Upside Down #Cheesecake

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I recently ran a poll on my Twit-stream in connection with #NationalPopcornDay asking for votes for which recipe people would like to see from a selection of three. Each of the recipes used popcorn in an alternative way. Not that there’s anything wrong with just munching on a bag in front of a good movie! But you know me and how I like to mix it up a bit!

Think of this, if you will, as a “deconstructed” cheesecake. Literally flipping everything your familiar with about cheesecake on it’s head. “Salty taste in a cheesecake?”, you say, “That’s a bit unusual”. “The crumb layer is ON TOP!?!…well that’s just crazy!” Welcome to my world.

 

sweet-n-salty-upsidedown-cheesecake-1

Sweet ‘n’ Salty Upside Down Cheesecake

Cheesecake

200g Feta Cheesecake

300g Cream Cheese

130ml whipped cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Caramel sauce

210g of sugar

85g butter

120ml double cream

 

Crumb topping

14g Sweet and Salty popcorn, crushed

90g digestive biscuit crumb

50g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

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To make the cheesecake:

  • In a stand mixer bowl, beat the feta cheese until smooth.
  • Add in the cream cheese, half of the whipped cream and the salt, and mix until combined.
  • Add in the remainder of the whipped cream and mix again until fully combined.

 

To make the caramel sauce:

  • In a large saucepan, heat the sugar over a moderate heat. Continue to heat until the sugar turns a deep amber color. DO NOT STIR! If needed you can swirl the pan.
  • When the deep amber color has been reached add in the butter and stir until melted.
  • Once the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Take extra care here as adding the cream will cause the mixture to foam up and steam. Continue to whisk until the foaming subsides and the sauce is smooth.
  • Leave to cool fully before proceeding.

 

To make the crumb topping:

  • Over a medium heat melt the unsalted butter in a frying pan.
  • Add in the biscuit crumb and crushed popcorn. Toss to coat in the melted butter.
  • Mix in the brown sugar and stir to evenly coat.
  • Continue to stir until the crumb mixture gently browns and caramelises.
  • Remove the crumb mixture from the pan and allow to cool on a plate or bowl until needed.

 

To assemble:

  • In an oblong pie dish, spoon the cheesecake mixture and smooth.
  • Pour over the caramel sauce and spread to smooth.
  • Liberally sprinkle over the crumb mixture and lightly press down.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Serve and enjoy!

sweet-n-salty-upsidedown-cheesecake-3

#Recipe Candycane Brownies

 

 

candycane-brownies-10

And now January has set in. Tinsel and lights have been packed away. Christmas tree carcasses litter the sidewalks- emaciated reminders of festivities past. On the whole January would appear to be a pretty “grey”- The Month of M’eh. Each mouthful of chocolate or candy is now succeeded by a guilty pang of remorse. “December was pretty indulgent, I really shouldn’t be eating this”…said no one in my kitchen. Ever!

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Erma Bombeck

There’s usually a surplus of sweet treats of some variety in my house after the festive season. This year is was candy canes. Having fulfilled their duty of adorning the christmas trees for the best past of a month (and surviving the voracious eyes of my children!) it’s now time to put them to an alternative, and somewhat tastier, use.

For something so small and simple candy cane have an assortment of end uses in the kitchen. Aside from having a good ol’ fashioned chomp on them, there are recipes available for flavoured vodkas, cupcakes, and hot chocolate. I opted for using them in one of my favourite flavour combinations- mint and chocolate. My Candy cane Brownies are rich, indulgent treats laced with peppermint and studded with chewy, mini nuggets of stripped cane and chocolate chumks. Just for good measure there’s an extra sprinkling of smashed candy canes topping each brownies with extra festive whimsy.

Having arrived in our new home of Canada just ahead of the festive blitz I had little time for baking and experimenting with the new array of ingredients that have since become available to me. New brands, varieties and flavours lined shelfs, all there for the taking in my greedy mitts. The cocoa powder I used here, Fry’s (which is a Dutch processed cocoa), resulted in a much darker and richer chocolate flavour compared to those I’ve used in the UK. I’d highly recommend trying to get your hands on some if you can! So this recipe provided the perfect excuse for not only using up the excess candy canes but also as a trial for using unfamiliar ingredients. I hope you like them. And yes I know it’s strictly speaking a christmas recipe and the festive season is done and dusted, but just them of them as a legitimate excuse for resurrecting it for a brief few minutes. Enjoy!

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Candy cane Brownies

makes 12

Unsalted butter 185g, cubed

185g Bakers unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon Nielsen Massey peppermint extract

3 eggs

275g caster (superfine) sugar

85g plain flour

½ teaspoon salt

50g Fry’s cocoa powder

50g Bakers semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

50g peppermint candy cane, broken into smalls pieces

To decorate

75g peppermint candy canes, smashed into irregular pieces

  • Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
  • Stir the peppermint extract into the cooled chocolate mixture, and the fold into the egg mixture.
  • Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together.
  • Mix in the chocolate chunks and candy cane pieces. Fold again until well combined.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. To test- insert a skewer into the mixture about 1 inch from the edge of the tin and it should come out clean.
  • To decorate-sprinkle the top of the brownies with the smashed candy cane pieces and gently push into the surface so the stick.
  • Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares, and serving.

candycane-brownies-7

 

 

#Recipe Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Something a little different for you all now, and not a baked good in sight! One of the few pasta dishes I actually enjoy eating, this a perfect comfort food dish in my view. A one-pot wonder dish thats great on so many levels. No fuss no muss and easy to prepare. It’s great if you want something indulgent in front of your favourite TV program or equally as good for al fresco dining with a chilled white wine. Hope you enjoy!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Serves 2

Mirepoix vegetable base

1 red pepper, halved

5 sticks celery heart, roughly chopped

200g onions, roughly chopped

Main chicken dish

2 chicken breast fillets, cut in to cubes

2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, I use Barts

4 cloves garlic, crushed

150g button mushrooms, halved

50g streaky bacon, chopped and fried until crisp

1 litre Chicken stock

125ml Milk, semi-skimmed is fine

50ml Double cream

250g fettuccine pasta

Salt and Pepper, to season

To serve

Parmesan cheese, grated

Mire Poix

To make the “Mirepoix”

  • Blitz the red pepper, chopped celery and chopped onion in food processor until combined and well chopped.
  • Remove and place in a bowl. Cover until needed.*
  • Heat some oil in a large pan, or wok, and add the chicken pieces. Fry until lightly browned.
  • Sprinkle on the Cajun seasoning and fry for another 2 -3 minutes.
  • Add in 4 tablespoons of the mirepoix and the crushed garlic cloves. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms and crispy bacon and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour in the chicken stock, milk and double cream. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Break the fettuccine in half, add to the chicken mixture and stir so that the dried pasta is mixed well into the other ingredients.
  • Cover and simmer over a medium heat for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Remove cover for last 5 mins of cooking. Cook until the sauce has thickened and the pasta cooked until al dente.
  • Remove from the heat and transfer to serving bowls.
  • Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

*This make more than enough mirepoix base. I keep mine in the fridge covered and use it whenever I need a quick season base for dishes. I don’t just use it for Cajun or Creole dishes either – it goes rather well in a Bolognese too!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

#Recipe Brownie Fries w/ Raspberry Ketchup & Yuzu Mayo

So this recipe originally started as an idea to create smaller “bite-size” brownies with a difference. Sadly after a quick Googling (!) I found someone else had beat me in creating the concept. Oh well, imitation is the best form of flattery as they say. Brownie Fries or “Fruffles” (a portmanteau of Fries + Truffles) as they appear to be called in some places Stateside have been around for a while. Usually they’re served with a berry compote “ketchup” and yogurt “mayo” but not one to let a chance for experimentation go by I decided to mix up the flavours a bit.

Berry ketchup and yogurt mayo? Oh no, no- not for me! So all aboard the “Flavour train” for a raspberry dipping sauce with fresh and spicy notes thanks to basil and black pepper, paired with rich, creamy and zingy mascarpone dip. Here’s my take on Brownie “Fries” and they’re deep-dipping, lip-smacking good!

 

Brownie Fries (2)

Brownie “Fries”

185g unsalted butter, cubed

185g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

eggs 3

275g caster sugar

85g plain flour

1 tbsp Espresso powder

50g dark chocolate chips

50g milk chocolate chips

100g pecans, lightly roasted and roughly chopped

To decorate

125g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

125g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Coarse sea salt to sprinkle

Freshly ground vanilla (Dr. Oetker do a wonderful grater/grinder)

Raspberry “Ketchup”

75g fresh raspberries

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

½ tsp black peppercorns

Yuzu “Mayo”

250g Mascarpone cheese

100ml single cream

1 tsp agave syrup

2 tbsp Yuzu juice

  •  Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment, or 9” x9” brownie tray (with short dividers removed).
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour and Espresso powder. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together until just uniform in color.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans until fully incorporated.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray, or brownie pan, and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin before removing.
  • Start by cutting the brownie slab in to 3” wide strips. If you’re using a brownie pan the long dividers will already have done this for you. Next, rotate the strips 90 degrees and cut strips approximately ¾ inch wide. Arrange on a sheet of baking paper with about 1 inch space between.
  • To finish, melt the dark and milk chocolates in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and snip a small piece from the end to make a fine nozzle.
  • Pipe the melted chocolate over your brownie fries so that it drips down over the sides, forming the “batter coating” to your “fries”.
  • Leave to cool for about 15 mins then sprinkle lightly with seas salt and grind over fresh vanilla.
  • Leave to finally set.

To make the Raspberry “Ketchup”

  • In a bowl combine the fresh raspberries, basil leaves, and black peppercorns.
  • Using a hand blender, blitz until a fine pulp.
  • Pass through a sieve to a bowl below.
  • Set aside until serving.

To make the Yuzu “Mayo”

  • In a bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, cream, agave syrup and yuzu juice.
  • Beat until fully combined.
  • Spoon in to a bowl for serving.

To serve

  • Arrange the brownie fries alongside the ketchup and yuzu mayo.
  • Now dip away to your heart’s content!

Brownie Fries (5)